Dissertations, Theses, and Capstone Projects

Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name





Gary Wilder

Committee Members

Mandana Limbert

Susan Buck-Morss

Jonathan Shannon

Subject Categories

African History | Social and Cultural Anthropology


sovereignty, international law, political conflict, nationalism, human rights, North Africa


This dissertation situates the disputed geopolitical territory of Western Sahara in a broader, regional history of decolonization. Eschewing the conceptual framework of methodological nationalism, and pushing beyond the period of Moroccan-Sahrawi political conflict, it examines how decolonization has generated multiple, unresolved political projects in this region of the Sahara, dating back to the 1950s. These formations, encompassing southern Morocco, Moroccan-occupied Western Sahara, Sahrawi refugee camps in Algeria, and northern Mauritania, include a zone of militarized occupation, a movement for nation-state sovereignty based in refugee camps, and the borderlands in between. By considering the overlapping processes that emerge through these unresolved political projects, this study considers how the “disorderly histories” of decolonization have produced multiple forms of political space, time and subjectivity in the Sahara, from the late 1950s, through the 1970s, and to today. The ongoing effects of these projects in the Sahara bring several tensions underlying post-World War II political formations – between borders and belonging, dependence and autonomy, sovereignty and international law – into particularly sharp relief.